Button Up! #11 – Black America Can’t Breathe


This button from late last fall makes its point succinctly, but I never really warmed up to it. I think that’s because the first two people I saw wearing it were white.

Everyone remembers, I’m sure, the awkwardness of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe” as the early slogans of this new movement that erupted at this time last year. (I did wear a black tee shirt with the latter on it at the insistence of some folks in the young multinational crew when we blocked the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for Eric Garner.)

This pin doesn’t have the same problem as those—that white people chanting or wearing the slogans, no matter sincere their feelings of solidarity, are in essence claiming to have the same relationship to killer cops that Black folk do. Which is hogshit.

But what this pin tends to do is set white wearers aside from white people in general, asserting a special status as Good White People. That’s one reason why my go-to pin when I leave the apartment these days is “Black Lives Matter.” And I always carry extras to give or sell folk of whatever nationality who express interest. I am ready to talk to anyone who wants to run an All Lives Matter rap and explain why it is exactly Black lives whose weight and importance must be asserted at this time.

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